NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT
ALL INDIVIDUALS WHO USE A WHEELCHAIR OR SCOOTER FOR MOBILITY WHO ENCOUNTERED ACCESSIBILITY BARRIERS AT THE PARKING LOT OR ROUTE FROM THE ACCESSIBLE PARKING SPACES OF THE PARKING LOT TO THE ENTRANCE OF A CRACKER BARREL STORE IN THE UNITED STATES
YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO OBJECT TO THE SETTLEMENT DESCRIBED BELOW
READ THIS NOTICE AND INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY
This notice is to inform you about the proposed class settlement that would resolve the lawsuit captioned Heinzl v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-01455-MRH-RCM (W.D. Pa.) (the “Lawsuit”).
The Lawsuit asserts that Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (“Cracker Barrel”) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA ”) and its implementing regulations by failing to provide accessible parking spaces and/or a route from the accessible parking spaces to the store entrance (referred to as a store’s “Parking Facility”) at 107 Cracker Barrel stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia (listed in Exhibit 1 to this notice). The Lawsuit also asserts that Cracker Barrel has inadequate policies in place to ensure that the Parking Facilities at all Cracker Barrel stores in the United States are accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility as required by the ADA. The Lawsuit seeks (1) injunctive relief to remove barriers at Cracker Barrel’s Parking Facilities and modify Cracker Barrel’s policies to ensure accessibility at its Parking Facilities for people who use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility, and (2) costs, expenses and attorneys’ fees for prosecuting the case.
Cracker Barrel believes that it acted lawfully and in compliance with the ADA at all times and denies all liability in the Lawsuit. However, the parties have agreed to settle the Lawsuit to avoid the burden, expense, risk, and uncertainty of continuing the litigation and to achieve a final resolution. The Court has preliminarily approved the parties’ proposed settlement agreement, but has yet to finally approve it.
I. THE CLASS
The class certified in the Lawsuit is defined as follows: All persons who use manual or power wheelchairs or scooters for mobility who were denied the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any Cracker Barrel store location in the United States on the basis of disability because such persons encountered accessibility barriers due to Cracker Barrel’s failure to comply with the ADA’s accessible parking and path of travel requirements (the “Class”).
II. SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT
The settlement results in injunctive relief that will ensure that all of the Cracker Barrel Parking Facilities alleged by Plaintiff to have accessibility barriers will conform to the ADA’s accessibility standards (“2010 Standards”) and puts in place a policy and process for identifying and removing barriers at all of the other Parking Facilities at Cracker Barrel stores in the United States. Specifically:
The settlement requires Cracker Barrel to, with the assistance of a mutually agreed-upon ADA consultant, develop a survey form to assess the compliance of its Parking Facilities with the 2010 Standards, as well as a training program for Cracker Barrel employees who will complete the surveys. Class Counsel will have the opportunity to review and comment on the survey form. Utilizing the survey form and trained employees, Cracker Barrel will assess the Parking Facilities of the 107 Cracker Barrel stores that Plaintiff alleged has accessibility barriers, and ensure that all of these Parking Facilities comply with the 2010 Standards within thirty months after the Effective Date of the settlement.
Cracker Barrel will also adopt and implement a policy requiring the use of the survey form when a Parking Facility is formally inspected by Cracker Barrel in the normal course of business. Cracker Barrel has agreed that, during the term of the settlement agreement, it will complete at least one survey form for every Cracker Barrel store (other than the 107 Parking Facilities already addressed above) that was opened on or before May 1, 2017 (the “Existing Stores”). If the survey form reveals the existence of access barriers at an Existing Store’s Parking Facility, Cracker Barrel will remove such barriers within two years after the date of the inspection or within seven years after the Effective Date of the settlement, whichever is sooner.
With respect to Cracker Barrel stores opened after May 1, 2017 (the “New Stores”), Cracker Barrel will require in its design and construction contracts that these Parking Facilities be designed and constructed in compliance with the 2010 Standards. Prior to the opening date of each New Store, Cracker Barrel will obtain a certification from an independent engineer stating that the store’s Parking Facility complies with the 2010 Standards. The Parking Facility of each of these New Stores will then be formally inspected (using the survey form) in the normal course of business by Cracker Barrel no later than four years after the store’s opening date, and any required remediation will be completed within one year of the inspection.
The settlement contains reporting and monitoring provisions to ensure that Cracker Barrel meets its obligations. For example, Cracker Barrel will provide annual reports to Class Counsel on its compliance with the settlement’s injunctive relief provisions, and Class Counsel will conduct audits of eleven of the 107 Cracker Barrel Parking Facilities that Cracker Barrel is required to survey and (if necessary) bring into compliance with the 2010 Standards. Cracker Barrel will also provide to Class Counsel all accessibility-related complaints relating to its Parking Facilities in connection with its annual reports.
The settlement also provides for an incentive payment to Plaintiff Sarah Heinzl of $7,500 and a payment to Class Counsel of $830,000 for past and future attorneys’ fees and costs relating to the prosecution of the Lawsuit and future monitoring.
III. THE EFFECT OF THE SETTLEMENT ON THE RIGHTS OF CLASS MEMBERS
If the settlement is approved by the Court, all Class members will be bound by the terms of the settlement relating to the accessibility of the Parking Facilities at all Cracker Barrel stores in the United States. In other words, once the settlement is approved, all Class members will release and forever discharge claims they may have for injunctive relief related to the accessibility of the Parking Facilities at Cracker Barrel stores for people who use a wheelchair or scooter for mobility.
IV. OBJECTING TO THE SETTLEMENT
If you are a Class member, you can ask the Court to deny approval of this settlement by filing an objection with the Court. You can give reasons why you think the Court should not approve it. You must do so in writing. The Court will consider your views. If the Court denies approval of the settlement terms, there will be no settlement and the Lawsuit will continue. You must object in writing and in accordance with the instructions below.
To object, you must file the objection with the Clerk of the Court either in person or by first class mail at the following address:
Clerk of the Court U.S. District Court 700 Grant Street Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Any objection must be received by July 13, 2017 for it to be considered. All written objections and supporting papers must clearly set forth: (i) the name of the litigation, Heinzl v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-01455-MRH-RCM (W.D. Pa.); (ii) the Class member’s full name, address, and telephone number; and (iii) the specific reasons for the objection, and any evidence or legal authority the Class member believes supports the objection.
Class members who fail to properly or timely file objections in writing with the Court and in accordance with the procedures set forth above shall not be heard during the fairness hearing described below. Nor shall their objections be considered by the Court.
V. FAIRNESS HEARING
The District Court will hold a fairness hearing to decide whether to approve the settlement. The fairness hearing will be held on August 10, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. at the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, 700 Grant Street, Courtroom #9B, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate. If there are objections or requests to be heard, the Court may consider them at the hearing. The Court may also decide the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs to be paid to Class Counsel.
If you file an objection, you may also appear at the fairness hearing. You may appear at the hearing either in person or through your own attorney. If you appear through your own attorney, you are responsible for paying that attorney. To be heard at the hearing, you must ask the Court for permission to speak at the same in advance of the hearing. To do so, you must file, in writing, a Notice of Intention to Appear with the Clerk of the Court. Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number and signature on the notice. Your Notice of Intention to Appear must be postmarked no later than July 13, 2017, and be sent to the Clerk of the Court:
Clerk of the Court U.S. District Court 700 Grant Street Pittsburgh, PA 15219
The date of the fairness hearing may change without further notice to the class. You should check the settlement website at www.crackerbarrelADAsettlement.com or the U.S. Court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system at https://ecf.pawd.uscourts.gov to get the most current information concerning the date of the hearing.
VI. FURTHER INFORMATION
This notice summarizes the proposed settlement. You may seek the advice and guidance of your own private attorney, at your own expense, if you desire. For the precise terms and conditions of the settlement, please see the settlement agreement available at www.crackerbarrelADAsettlement.com, contact Class Counsel using the information below, access the Court docket in this case through the Court’s Public Access website at PACER.gov, or visit the U.S. District Court, 700 Grant Street, Suite 3100, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Court holidays.
To obtain a copy of this notice in alternate accessible formats, contact Class Counsel using the information below.
VII. CONTACT INFORMATION
Please do not contact the Court, the Court Clerk’s office, or Cracker Barrel’s Counsel with questions about this settlement. Any questions must be directed to Class Counsel at 1-800-467-5241 or at the address below:
Benjamin J. Sweet, Esquire
Carlson Lynch Sweet Kilpela & Carpenter, LLP
1133 Penn Avenue, 5th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222